In these days of credit-crunched, cash-shrinking gloom, Vodafone has bulked up its low-cost pay-as-you-talk line-up with an own-brand, feature-heavy slider in the form of the VF830.

Tempting punters with a sophisticated exterior, HSDPA high-speed 3G data connectivity, Mobile TV and video calling, the VF830 asks just £80 in exchange, and could be just the ticket in a today's budget-conscious marketplace.

Responsive controls

The handset itself is a hybrid of styles borrowed from the major manufacturers: its overall appearance is very 'Nokia', with a large 2.4in display set above a simple D-pad, menu buttons and call answer/hang-up keys.

Sliding the handset open reveals a Motorola RAZR-like etched keypad in brushed steel, which proves wonderfully tactile and responsive.

Although the build quality does feel a little fragile in places, the end result is a handset capable of assuming all the airs and graces of its contract counterparts at a fraction of the cost.

Data driven

Well, we say a fraction of the cost, but with many of the VF830's higher-spec features you'd do well to keep half an eye on your data charges. HSDPA connectivity is on offer, making surfing the web, updating your status on Facebook and downloading media a much more tempting proposition.

Video calling via a secondary camera is also included, despite the apparent lack of interest from UK consumers – as is Mobile TV, which has a pre-set menu link to Vodafone's programming.

What will probably be used far more is the pre-installed Google Maps app, removing any possible excuse for getting lost again. The bonus of HSDPA is also coupled with USB connectivity, Bluetooth and a microSD expansion slot for storing files. Connecting up your handset to a PC with the USB cable also enables the computer to use the phone as a modem – but again, check out your data tariff first.

Despite playing host to technology like HSDPA, the menu itself is simple and will no doubt be a bit of a turn-off for those who like a more grown-up interface. That said, it's also incredibly easy to navigate, with plenty of hotkeys to quickly access your favourite function.

Every step has been well thought through – taking a leaf out of the Apple book of design, where simple doesn't have to mean pre-school functionality.

Quality camera and practical functions

In fact, given its pre-pay status, the VF830 manages to cram in more than the average quota of practical features. The camera, often a let-down on cheaper models, is better than many of those from the big guns with an excellent autofocus system and 3.2-megapixel resolution.

Images are crisp, and while brighter colours appear a bit muted the lack of noise is exceptional. There are also enough settings to tweak if the setting proves difficult (although unfortunately no flash).

To keep your work and home-life in check there's plenty of organiser tools included, with one of the most useful being the voice recorder facility. You can even activate this during a call, allowing you to record the other half of the conversation –but not in a James Bond type way, a loud beep will soon give the game awa; but a nifty feature, nonetheless.

If email is your preferred method of communication, the VF830 lets you load up to five webmail accounts so you can check your inboxes on the move.

Variable call quality

When it comes to the basics of making a call, the quality is variable. Interference is minimal with no dropouts, but callers' voices lack crispness and often sound muffled. But again, it's important to keep in mind the price of the handset and while not perfect, the performance is not sufficiently impaired to be particularly irksome.

Vodafone really have excelled with the VF830 in making a handset that offers the practical functions of benefit to everyday users as well as bringing technology like HSDPA to an affordable price-point – and all in an attractive sleek black slider design.

Looks: 3.5/5
Ease of use: 4/5
Features: 4/5
Call quality: 3/5
Value: 4/5

Network availability: Vodafone